April 18, 2016

United Airlines-SIU Aviation Career Day planned

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Like many of his United Airlines co-workers, Capt. Michael Besley will make a return trip to Southern Illinois University Carbondale later this week for United Airlines-SIU Aviation Career Day. 

The 1987 aviation management graduate will pilot an Airbus A320 to Southern Illinois Airport on Saturday, April 23, bringing approximately 113 high school students to campus to learn more about the university’s aviation programs. 

“I’m very proud to have the opportunity to represent United on aviation day and to return to SIU with one our airplanes,” Besley said. 

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the event, participate in courtesy flights, and interview students, faculty and alumni.  The plane will land at Southern Illinois Airport at about 9 a.m. For more information, contact José R. Ruiz, professor and interim chair, aviation management and flight, at 618/453-8898.

Wojciech Koziarski, another aviation department alumnus, will be first officer. Participating alumni include pilots, dispatchers, mechanics, flight attendants, and others.  The alumni who work for United Airlines volunteer to make the trip and talk with students.  The discussions center on careers in aviation and at the airline, and there will be a campus tour, including the Transportation Education Center. The schedule includes, weather permitting, introductory flights in aviation flight aircraft for selected students. 

Besley, who is from Plainfield, earned his private pilot license while in high school and wanted to continue his flight training in the state. His father, a United Airlines pilot for 39 years, attended the University of Illinois and both visited there and SIU. In the end, “we both liked Southern the best,” Besley said. His sister, Ann Swalwell, pilots a 747 for United out of O’Hare airport, and his stepfather worked as a technician for the airline as well. 

Besley recently took SIU aviation students on a tour of O’Hare, the airline’s flight operations and some of the airplanes. 

“It was very gratifying to show them what all their hard work can lead to,” he said. Besley said he will tell high school students that if they catch the “aviation bug, the road to the airlines is about hard work and persistence as well as networking.” 

SIU Carbondale is the only university that works with major airlines to fly students to its campus for an aviation career day. This is the 18th year for a collaboration with United Airlines that began in 1994; the program was suspended in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and resumed in 2007. 

The event represents a “partnership between two premier aviation organizations – United Airlines and Southern Illinois University,” José R. Ruiz, professor and interim chair, aviation management and flight, said. The event will “expose young people to a multitude of career opportunities in aviation, reconnect with SIU aviation alumni and strengthen SIU’s ties with the aviation industry. It also serves as an opportunity to highlight the nationally recognized SIU aviation program and the beautiful SIU campus. We want to demonstrate that SIU is a great place for the next generation of aviators to receive their aviation education.” 

The aviation programs consist of aviation management, aviation flight, and aviation technologies, all within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.